A triumph of consistency on court
Proverbially, the tortoise topples the hare. You'll also hear the cliche, slow and steady wins the race, but they are just different ways of saying that consistency of performance will trump fleeting brilliance nine times out of 10.
That's how it played out in premier grade netball at Saxton Stadium as the capricious sides of Stoke, Waimea College and Nelson College for Girls were shut out by the secure pace of Jacks, Richmond and Prices. However the erratic lower-ranked teams did display the ability to knock off their highly fancied rivals for a time, with all winning at least one quarter.
First up on court one, competition leaders Jacks OPD Richmond did enough to beat Stoke NBS 69-60. In the first quarter Jacks were as efficient as Stoke were flighty, too many errors allowing Jacks to lead 19-12 at quartertime.
Jacks' zone defence and rebounding prowess came to the fore led by Moana Forbes and Louise Monge-Grassi. In the second period Stoke continued an error-prone display and Jacks continued to annoy the scorers, leading 36-20 at halftime.
As if they needed any more firepower Jacks brought on goal shoot Ani-Marie Waitai for the second half but it was Stoke's changes that had the most impact on the game. Moving rising star Michaela Matenga to centre allowed Abbie Cook to feed the ball briskly from wing attack.
Stoke won both quarters in the second half thanks also to improved performances from Aleisha Cederman and Kelsey Whiting, but for all their good work they couldn't put 60 minutes together or deny Jacks an easy flow of goals.
Stoke coach Priyani de Silva-Currie said they knew it would be a tight game.
"That second half was a mile better than that first half. When we realised our game plan wasn't working – we changed it.
"We played better when we let the ball go with freedom and length."
For Jacks it was another slightly ordinary performance, but they were still good enough to win by nine and that sentiment was echoed by Jacks coach Robyn Leonard.
"Our last quarter was pretty average, but we won and I'm pleased with that.
"Some bits of our game are a bit dodgy at the moment; we aren't moving as well as we could or rotating in the circle but nothing we are too concerned about."
On court two, Waimea College Senior A started like they were the two-time defending champions, but Richmond Robbies Bar and Bistro ran them down and powered home as the reigning premiers won 65-47.
Waimea were dashing as they outplayed their more experienced counterparts to finish the quarter 15-9 ahead. Playing without Kathleen Thornalley forced Richmond into positional changes that took a while to settle.
Waimea team manager Lyn Fleming said from that point they simply wasted a lead by throwing away too much ball.
"We came out really well in the first quarter but from there we did silly things.
"We tended to throw the ball into opposition hands and we didn't shoot well."
After the first interval Richmond stepped up their game, putting pressure on the Waimea shooters, who didn't respond well, and Richmond grappled for control of the match.
Richmond bought in some big-time defenders to partner Kat Jones in the third spell to press their advantage. Adding Amy Russ and Olivia Hall paid dividends straight away as Waimea succumbed to the increase in height and experience.
"It took us a while to get into the groove, but the girls settled down eventually and came to party.
"We had to dig deep and pick up our game in the second half," said Richmond co-coach Amanda Springer.
In the late game Nelson College for Girls were blown off the court in the first half by Prices Pharmacy as the third-placed team beat the sixth-placed team, 65-38.
Prices were all over the court, and Nelson struggled to find any space in the final third. Nelson were often forced backwards to negate the three-second violation and at quartertime Prices led 16-8.
Prices are one of three genuine title contenders on current form, and looked every bit of that as they came out in the second quarter to deny Nelson a single goal for more than 10 minutes and win the quarter by a whopping 21-3.
Fortunately it got better for Nelson who looked out of their depth for the first time last night.
To their credit Nelson never dropped their heads, playing every minute with spirit and determination. It was that resolve that turned it around in the final quarter as Nelson outscored their opponents 15-13.
"That wasn't how we wanted to start," said Nelson College for Girls coach Kathryn Orange.
"They didn't wake up until the second half, but when they did there were some good passages of play."
Prices Pharmacy coach Wayne Hippolite said he was very pleased with his team's performance following some tough losses in the Tasman Trophy in Blenheim on the weekend.
"The girls were mentally prepared for this after last weekend. I was really pleased with the defensive end and the rebounding was great."
The Nelson Mail